A blog entry by Camille Allard
Organisations play an essential role in shaping the present and the future of our ageing society. It is crucial to understand how people are going to work in the future, as new needs, like care responsibilities, are soon going to become central to our work life. Accordingly, there is a necessity that we now reflect upon the way that people carry out care and work in the present day. The role of age, care experiences, career breaks, transitions and their impact on work is important to understand to contribute to the rights and protection of workers as well as their wellbeing. It is also important for industrial strategy and future productivity of organisations, specifically regarding the uncertainty of Brexit outcomes.
Our research team on work and care is simultaneously leading three different attached projects: first, with a series of case studies on the implementation and impact of voluntary employer-led care leaves in UK organisations; then by engaging with various organisations to improve our understanding of how diverse UK companies can gain the best value from their ageing workforce with greater care responsibilities; and finally, by undertaking an employers’ survey with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development to contribute to knowledge on best combinations of work and care.
As a PhD student from this work team in the Sustainable Care programme, I focus particularly on care leave and its potential for supporting working carers, used in combination with other kinds of organisational support such as flexibility, reduction of hours, and carers’ network. Whilst other kinds of care and family leave for childcare are more likely now to be normalised with fewer questions arising around their legitimacy, this is not the case yet for other types of care leave. Elderly and disabled care responsibilities more particularly don’t yet have the same recognition and value in our society. Consequently, ensuring a guarantee of paid care leave in the UK is a crucial next step for organisations and workers. For the moment, the UK does not have any legislation on care leave, leaving organisations to pioneer change in this area. This could be positive, as organisations can implement care leave as it fits best for them. But this may also invite challenges, meaning that not all working carers are equally protected and supported and they could be left dependent upon their employer’s will. Moreover, this care leave may also take multiple and fragmented forms across various organisations (emergency, medical appointment, end-of-life care, bereavement…) making it quite difficult for working carers to understand and access.
The UK’s cultural model of caring is also interesting to explore and to question: What are the intentions behind these care leave policies? What can be, for instance, the motivation of the state for incentivising a wider implementation of these policies among companies, and potentially legislating on it? As Kremer (2007) relevantly points out, the state (and organisations, as partners of the state) send culturally defined moral messages around caring and promote images of what is “good caring.” Care leave schemes are then important to explore in the aim of understanding what is this moral “ideal of care” model conducted by the UK.
Our research will hopefully help to influence social policy on this “ideal of care” model. It will eventually push towards better legislation for improving a better and more equal share of care work, protecting working carers, and giving them the time they need to care, without constraining people to make a sometimes stark choice between “to work or to care.”
Camille Allard, PhD Student
Camille Allard is a PhD Student working in the Sustainable Care programme, read more about her work by clicking the link below